Excerpted from Deep by Susanna Vance Copyright © 2003 by Susanna Vance. Excerpted by permission of Laurel Leaf, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Here I am again, floating in a warm bubble bath, hoping for something heinous or preposterous or even gruesome to happen. I need that, to write my book. If it weren’t for the number one rule, “Write about what you know,” I’d have written my book already.
Each time I sink to the bottom of the tub, my eyes bulge, my hair billows like scarlet seaweed, and new ideas burst in my head. Like colorful bubbles—like jets of brilliance—like hatchling wordpearls! My brain’s like one of those magic crystals you drop in water and it turns into something fabulous.
If I wanted to write a book about thirteen years of pleasantness mixed with disappointment, it would already be done. That’s my life. I go to school, play soccer in the rain, try to keep my parents and my best friend, Kirin, entertained—and I take a lot of bubble baths.
Yep, that’s me. Birdie Sidwell: a small, brilliant person, who’s no trouble at all to those around her.
Even my teachers love me. I get A’s on all my stories. Vivid, is what they say about them. Next to my similes and metaphors they write Original! Quirky! Of course the stories are just practice for my book. My book will be big. Huge! It will have action and terror and maybe even sex! Publishers will beg me for it, movie producers will call me on their cell phones, and other bestselling authors will be my friends—
“Birdie?” Mom was tapping on the bathroom door. Her bathroom door, actually. I have my own bathroom, but hers always seems nicer. “Clean yet, honey? It’s been an hour. . . . Your dad’s hoping for a shower before bed.”
“Clean as diamonds, Mom.”
I flopped over on my stomach, sighing heavily as water lapped over the edge. “Your tub is a paradise of coconut oil.”
“Yes, but you’ve got coconut oil in your own bathroom too.”
“Yours smells better.” Better than sunburned moondrops? “Mom? The floor’s pretty wet in here. Dad’s welcome to use my shower. . . . There might not be any more hot water, though.”
“Oh, Birdie, for heaven’s sake.”
He won’t care. He knows baths are important to me, and it’s not like he has school in the morning.
“It’s bedtime,” Mom said. “Wipe up the floor. Put the top back on my coconut oil, if any’s left.”
Mom’s sigh is bigger than mine, even through a door.
Usually being my mother keeps her very content. It’s being superintendent of schools, her day job, that I find a problem.
“Why not just stay home with me?” I’ve asked her a dozen times. “Make homemade angel food cake like you never do? Paint my toenails?”
She just smiles.
Fortunately Dad’s home during the day, being a genius for the government. He’s working on a soybean that will end world hunger. Being home gives him a chance to tend the special garden in the basement where vegetables are grown for my salads.
Along with my special baths, my special salads are my one big necessity. I used to have asthma. We were all traumatized by those times. It was actually heinous and preposterous and even gruesome, but you can’t write an adventure book about asthma! My body is still behind because of it. I do a lot of things, like eating homegrown salad, so I can catch up. And I still have inhalers and meds in the medicine cabinet, just in case.
I guess it’s obvious, but I’ve been through a lot.
* * *
One big thing I survived is when I was seven and my best friend, Kirin, was transferred out of our neighborhood school and into Nu-Way Academy, across the bridge in Washington.
Let me say first that even Mom, who thinks diversity is a good thing, says this school is radical. The “Nu” of Nu-Way comes from a guy named Nudleman who started a chain of schools.
His main idea is turning Negative Thinkers into Positive Thinkers. Which looks like it works because if kids don’t instantly pretend to be thinking positively, they get spanked!
Hel-lo? How negative is that?
I’ve seen Nudleman in person. He walks around downtown in his expensive regular clothes just like he was normal, except he carries a staff. He always has kids with him, who he calls his flock.
If something like a scoop of ice cream falls off a cone and splats onto one of his flock’s feet, she doesn’t say, “Shoot!” like a real kid. She says, “Wow! An opportunity to give my Nikes a scrub!”
Scary. And my best friend, who never did anything worse than sass her mom, was being sent there! At the time it happened, it seemed worse than a kidnapping.
Kirin came to school with me for the first week of second grade. We sat as close to each other as we could, just like in kindergarten and first grade. If she had a clue what was coming, she never said a word.
Her mother arrived early one afternoon, cracked open the classroom door as if hating to disturb. Her lipstick, as usual, was shaped into a coaxing smile.
She tiptoed in, eyes glittering with news. She handed Ms. West a yellow slip of paper, the official kind from the principal’s office. Then she practically danced over to Kirin, took her small wrist inside her own plump manicured hand, and flopped her daughter’s hand around at us.
“Say goodbye, Kirin.”
“Mom! Let go of me right now—”
Kirin had always been willful. Mrs. Kimball would no doubt punish her once they were back in their car.
“Goodbye?” Ms. West was frowning at the yellow slip. “Why didn’t I know anything about this?”
Mrs. Kimball’s smile tightened a notch.
“Does it really mean for good, Mrs. Kimball?”
“It’s a withdrawal slip,” Mrs. Kimball said shortly. “What about that don’t you understand?” Catching herself, she inflated her voice with bubbles again. “Actually, I just got the news myself! Kirin’s been chosen to join her own special flock.”
She beamed around at those of us not-chosen.
From the Hardcover edition.